Jerked suddenly awake, Shawna sat up in her bed, her little chest heaving, gasping for breath. Carefully reaching over she snatched Teddy up, squeezing him against her in a strangle-hold, knowing he’d protect her, despite the fact that he was missing an eye.
Shawna strained her little ears, listening for the slightest sound, the tiniest warning. Then she heard it. A slight creak of the floor. Someone—or more accurately—something had stepped on the loose floorboard at the end of the hallway.
She eyed the large expanse of her bed, the boundary defined by the SpongeBob SquarePants bedspread. That was one good thing about getting the new big bed. And just about the only good thing. She had pleaded with her parents to keep the old bed, but they had patiently explained that Grandma and Poppa could sleep in her new big bed when they visited and she could sleep on the camp cot. Shawna had tried to explain to them that the old bed was much safer because there were drawers beneath it and nothing could escape. Never mind the fact that she would be even more vulnerable on the cot!
But they wouldn’t listen. They had simply laughed at her, dismissively waving their hands, telling her that there was absolutely nothing under the bed.
What did they know? Shawna snorted into the dark. They were grown-ups, and grown-ups didn’t understand monsters. In fact, they couldn’t even see them, every kid knew that. But Katy Wilson’s brother told her that his best friend Mark Henderson’s older sister told him that their little cousin saw a monster.
That—in Shawna’s mind—was proof enough.
And now, one of the monsters living under her bed was wandering around the house. She knew there were more of them...there always were. One had obviously escaped already, the rest were just waiting for her to make a move, or worse, a mistake. Kneeling on the bed, she contemplated how she was going to reach the salvation of her parents’ bedroom, knowing that the moment she stepped onto the floor, she would likely be attacked. As she considered whether she could run fast enough, she saw a shadow slowly creep over the crack below her door, plummeting the room into complete darkness.
With a squeal, Shawna dove under the covers, yanking them over her head, knowing instinctively, as all children do, that bed sheets offer an invisible force shield that no monster can penetrate.
Trembling uncontrollably, Shawna squeezed her eyes shut, whimpering quietly, willing the monster to simply crawl back under the bed. She heard the squeak of her door as it opened slowly. Her hand edged over, reaching for the comfort only Teddy’s fur could provide, but she found only empty air. Horrified, she realized he must have fallen off the bed. Paralyzed with fear, Shawna shrank under the covers, imagining the gruesome tortures that Teddy would endure.
As she wondered if the protection of the bedspread would fail, wondered what would happen if she dared try and rescue Teddy, there was a loud—SNAP!
The room was immediately drenched in light.
Sharp footsteps carried across the room toward her bed, then suddenly stopped. The covers were snatched from her and Shawna tremulously opened her eyes, looking up into her mother’s face, who appeared to be holding back a smile.
“I know you’re scared, honey, but believe me—there is nothing under your bed.” And to prove it, Valerie Phillips got down on her knees and peered under her daughter’s bed. Popping her head back up, she announced brightly, “all clear!”
Valerie picked up her daughter’s teddy bear and, turning the stuffed toy over, noticed that he was becoming quite worn. “Teddy’s getting kind of old, don’t you think?” She waved the bear in front of Shawna, then tucked him in beside her. As she left, Valerie glanced back, Shawna’s terrified face stared back at her. Shaking her head, Valerie left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Left alone in the dark, Shawna pulled Teddy closer to her, smug with the knowledge that she, herself, now had proof of the monster conspiracy, for she had seen Teddy’s face clearly when her mother had swung him over her.
Teddy was now missing the other eye.
As she lay grieving for Teddy’s blindness, she heard the distinct tink, tink, tink, of a button bouncing across the floor, followed by the unmistakable sound of hollow, mocking laughter coming from under her bed.